With non-conference play nearing its conclusion for the Big Ten this season, it seemed like a good time to sit down and take a look at the conference’s Player of the Year race, which figures to be a tight one yet again this season.
There are a lot of different ways to evaluate this race, but these are simply by rankings at the moment. The scores are not necessarily based off a set system, but range from zero through 10 to give readers a better idea on the splits between players.
Here’s how things sit at the moment in this year’s Big Ten Player of the Year race.
12/22 Big Ten Player of the Year Rankings:
1. Caleb Swanigan (Purdue Boilermakers) - Rating: 9.5.
No Big Ten player has been more impressive so far this season than Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan. After a really good, but not great freshman campaign, Swanigan returned to Purdue with high expectations. However, through 12 games, he’s not only meeting those, but he’s exceeding them.
Through 13 games, Swanigan is averaging an absurd 18.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. He’s also already put up three 20 point and 20 rebound performances (nobody else in the Big Ten has one) and 10 double-doubles.
Those sound like stats for an entire season, not for a player through 13 games.
Whether Swanigan can keep up these insane numbers against tougher competition remains to be seen, but considering that he’s averaged 20 points and 9.7 rebounds in three games against ranked teams so far this season, watch out.
2. Peter Jok (Iowa Hawkeyes) - Rating: 8.6.
Perhaps no Big Ten player has been more important to his respective team than Jok has been to Iowa this season. He currently leads the Big Ten in scoring this season and is averaging an impressive 23.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. He’s also deadly from outside the arc, shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range.
Jok has also shown up particularly well in Iowa’s most important games this season, scoring 23 points against rival Iowa State and 18 (or more) against both Northern Iowa and North Dakota over the last two games. Iowa may still miss the NCAA Tournament, but the Hawkeyes only have a chance to make it because of what Jok has done so far.
3. Ethan Happ (Wisconsin Badgers) - Rating: 8.2.
The national media may still view Nigel Hayes as Wisconsin’s best player, but don’t be fooled. Although Hayes has been great this season, it’s Happ who should be drawing the national hype and attention. He’s averaging 13.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game and has been vital to Wisconsin’s 10-2 start this season.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Happ’s game is simply his diverse skillset. He can score at the rim or with his mid-range game, has proven to be a quality rebounder, and is one of the league’s best passing big man. In fact, his ability to feed the ball out of the post has drastically changed Wisconsin’s offense.
4. Melo Trimble (Maryland Terrapins) - Rating: 8.1.
By just about any statistical measure, Trimble has been outstanding so far this season. He’s averaging 17.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists and has helped Maryland race out to an 12-1 start. Trimble has also shown increased efficiency as his offensive rating, two-point percentage, and three-point percentage are all up this season.
The only concern for Trimble’s campaign for Big Ten Player of the Year will be how he performs against quality competition. He’s had an offensive rating below 100 in three of his four games against top 100 competition so far this season. If he hopes to contend with players like Swanigan and Jok, he will have to improve on that.
5. Malcolm Hill (Illinois Fighting Illini) - Rating: 7.9.
Outside of Jok, no player has scored more points in the Big Ten this season than Malcolm Hill. However, not only is he averaging 18.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, but he’s also done it efficiently with a 116.7 offensive rating and by making 42.9 percent of his attempts from three-point range.
Hill has also put up some monster games, including a 40-point performance against Northern Kentucky and a 32-point night against IUPUI. The only thing holding Hill back at this point is that he doesn’t have the diverse numbers to match some of the other top Player of the Year candidates. In particular, his assist, block, and steal numbers are relatively pedestrian.
Stay tuned each week for an update on the Big Ten’s Player of the Year race.